Considering the switch to solar

Breanna Mitchell / The Transcript

Solar Power of Oklahoma co-founder J.W. Peters speaks to Norman residents Tuesday about switching to solar energy at Norman Public Library Central.

About two dozen Norman residents gathered at Norman Public Library Central Tuesday evening to learn about switching to solar energy.

The Oklahoma City solar energy company, Solar Power of Oklahoma, has been traveling city to city sharing information and answering questions about solar energy at town hall-style meetings.

"I was interested to hear what they had to say," meeting attendee Pat Meirick said. "I drive an electric car, so I'm aware that the electric car is only as clean as the source of energy that the electricity comes from."

Meirick said he was interested in solar's potential to save him money, make the peak hours of AC usage more comfortable and reduce his carbon footprint.

"We just want to go out and educate people in what the process looks like, how solar works, what it means for the customers, their pocket books and long term investment in their own energy independence," Solar Power of Oklahoma co-founder J.W. Peters said.

Peters said Solar Power of Oklahoma aims to install panel systems that cover 65 to 85 percent of a customer's usage. The customer then pays their electric utility company, whether it's Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC) or OG&E, to supply the remaining kilowatts.

"We don't have sales people," Peters said. "We have advisors that are going to come out to your home, [and] they're going to be able to look at how much consumption you need, how much you can put on your roof, how much you can afford. They'll put together a plan and be able to show you how this can benefit you."

Norman Solar Power of Oklahoma customer Barbara Ross has kept her monthly billed kilowatts at zero by using the Sense Solar phone application connected to her panel system to monitor the difference between her panels' production and her energy usage.

Before getting panels, Ross paid $140 to $160 for electricity each month. Now, she only pays OEC's $25 minimum service fee.

"It has been a life changer for me," Ross said.

Some meeting attendees expressed their concerns about the panels being damaged by hail.

"All the panels that we install are a tier one panel," Peters said. "What that means is that they carry a 25 year warranty, and they all have to withstand 1.5-inch hail strikes at 50 mph winds."

To provide further assurance, Peters cited a storm with 2.75-inch hail in Golden, Colorado at the National Renewable Energy Lab in 2017. Out of the 3,000 panels at the lab, only one sustained damage.

Solar energy expenses include a $50 to $100 yearly increase in homeowners insurance and the cost of the system itself.

Peters said a seven kilowatt solar panel system is the average installation in Oklahoma. At $3 to $3.50 per watt, an average sized system could cost $20,000 to $25,000.

Solar panel systems can be expensive upfront, but Peters said switching to solar is cheaper long term than relying on the electricity generated by fossil fuels, which is experiencing climbing utility costs.

"I may not be able to save them money day one, month one or year one, but I know over the life of the system, we can save them significant dollars," Peters said.

Peters said solar energy can be an affordable option, especially taking into consideration the federal tax credit that allows customers to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes.

However, Peters said customers wanting to take advantage of the tax credit need to act soon.

"This year is the last year of the 30 percent federal tax credits," Peters said. "It rolls down to 26 [percent] next year, 22 [percent] the year after that and 10 [percent] the year after that."

"We want to make this financially feasible for everyone," Peters said. "We want everyone to have the benefit of going solar."

Recommended for you